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What Heraclitus Said About The Inability To Step Into The Same River Twice

A famous  quotation from Ancient Greek philosophy, which I want to be clear I’m not an expert on, is from Heraclitus about the  impossibility of stepping into the same river twice.

This is that passage as reported by the ancient biographer Plutarch

“For it is not possible to step twice in to the same river, according to Heraclitus, nor to touch mortal substance twice in any condition: by the swiftness and speed of it’s change, it scatters and collects itself again—or rather, it is not again and later but simultaneously that comes together and departs, approaches and retires.”

I can’t find the quote in the two volumes, but in Jean Lacouture’s first rate biography of Charles De Gaulle, Lacouture writes that De Gaulle found Heraclitus’ idea of use in his practice of politics.

I find it useful as well. Things change and are the same. Things can be relative and exist within fixed boundaries at the same time.

The picture above is of the Hooghly River in India.

Below is a picture of a wadi in the Negev desert area of Israel. A wadi is a riverbed that only flows after a heavy rain. So sometimes you can step into a river that is no longer a river—Though it might become a river again.

December 16, 2007 Posted by | Books, Politics | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

William Jennings Bryan & Heraclitus: In Conflict or In Agreement As To The Nature Of The Individual?

In his Cross of Gold speech at the 1896 Democratic Convention, William Jennings Bryan said, ” The individual is but an atom. He is born. He acts . He dies….”

In seeming contrast, the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said “Everything we do or think depends on participation in the divine account.” 

These assertions appear at odds. How can an atomistic individual be part of the collective cosmic whole?

What Bryan says next in Cross of Gold gives a clue. He says—“…But principles are eternal.” 

In Bryan’s conception of life, atomistic individuals find connection with the whole in asserting the underlying principles that give life a greater meaning and coherence.

Read now what Heraclitus said about the actions of individuals—“But although the account is common, most men live as though they had an understanding of their own”

People live as they are seperate from the whole, but really this is not the case. 

I agree with both Bryan and Heraclitus. I see no conflict.

The extent to which you agree or disagree with these men might provide a clue as to your outlook on a number of questions of politics and life. 

Please click here to read about William Jennings Bryan.

Please click here to read the Cross of Gold Speech.

Please click here to read about Heraclitus.

November 14, 2007 Posted by | Political History, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment